This afternoon, I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to speak at the UMKC Music Conservatory Choir Concert to benefit Susan G. Komen. What a fantastic event!
There were basically four choirs and they mixed and matched and joined each other in the final number and it was such a beautiful gift of music. The last song literally moved me to tears, as it was quite appropriate for the Faith, Love and Hope concert.
Dr. Robbins, the Conservatory Director was just so kind, and as he shared the story of how this event, now in its 11th year, got started, I was touched. He had a freshman student in choir and as she was leaving for Thanksgiving break he wished her a safe trip home and a Happy Thanksgiving. The young women started crying and admitted to him that she had just heard from her mother and mom has breast cancer. She wasn’t sure what this holiday would hold for her and her family and she didn’t know what to do with this information. Dr. Robbins told her that he wasn’t sure either, but together, they’d figure it all out. This concert was the result of that day.
The participants today included the Conservatory Concert Choir, Canticum Novum, Shawnee Mission North Chamber Singers and Lee’s Summit North Crimson Camerata. Truly, there was so much talent, and generosity of spirit in one place.
Here is what I said, when it was my turn to share my story and talk about Susan G Komen Foundation:
I’d like to thank you all for being here today and I’d like to thank UMKC Conservatory for their continued support of SGK and for allowing me this opportunity to address you all today. This concert today has been truly inspiring and a gift. Thank you to the choir for such a beautiful performance.
SGK’s breast cancer awareness message is a simple one:
Know your risk-Talk to your family about cancer history and discuss your risk with your Dr.
Clinical exan every 3 years 20+ and every year over the age of 40
Mammogram every year 40+
Know what’s normal for you-and what is not. If you discover something out of the ordinary, act quickly.
Make healthy lifestyle choices-Maintain a healthy weight, exercise, limit alcohol. . just making better choices can lower your risk of developing cancer.
Your support of SGK provides funding for mammograms, breast health education and for many programs providing care and support as survivors complete their treatments and get their lives back.
I’m a 19 month cancer survivor. My mother is here with me today, if I may introduce her, she is also a 19 month cancer survivor.
Yes, we were diagnosed within the same week. As strange as this sounds, we were both diagnosed in March of 2011, with tumors in the same location and same size, but that’s where the similarity ends. Our cancers were very different and required very different treatments.
Mom’s tumor was found as she got dressed one morning. She felt a lump, and knew it was not normal for her and immediately sought medical attention.
I, on the other hand, had my annual mammogram, which identified the main tumor. I am a strong believer in annual mammograms. I had been to the Dr. just the week before for a clinical exam. He never felt the lump and wished me well and said, “See ya next year.” My mammogram discovered a golf-ball sized lump in my breast, that he had not.
The story that then unfolded over the next few months is quite familiar to you all: Chemo, a double-mastectomy, radiation and reconstruction surgery.
SGK gave me hope, helped me meet other survivors who were living full lives following cancer treatment and helped me get my fight back.
Following chemo, I was weak, frail and in a wheelchair. With Mom by my side, my husband pushed me on the 1 mile SGK walk. Along the way, we visited with other survivors, found inspiration and hope. As we approached the Finish Line, something told me I must cross this line on my own two feet.
I asked my husband to stop the wheelchair and help me stand. I hobbled across that finish line, among the cheers, high-fives and hugs of those around us. I turned to my family that day and vowed that next year, I will run this race.
This was a strange statement coming from this weak, barely standing, bald person. It was almost comical if you knew me. You’d know that I’d never been a runner and had never completed a 5K. But, I was determined.
I had attended a class for cancer-related fatigue and was told that exercise should help. So, I joined the Pink T’s, a strength training program at KCCC. It was helping, I was feeling stronger. Finally, I started a running program and on August 12, 2012, I ran the SGK 5K and completed the race in 39 minutes. It CAN be done.
It was very emotional for me, as I came around the corner and once again saw that Finish Line looming before me. I realized that this was not just the end of a footrace. . .but, truly the FINISH LINE. I had only one reconstruction surgery ahead of me. . but, the cancer is gone and I am FINISHED.
On behalf of each survivor touched by SGK, including myself, my mom and perhaps many of you, I’d like to thank you again for your support; providing the programs to help us identify, battle and recover from cancer and the inspiration that keeps us running to that finish line.
Today, I can say, indeed, I had cancer, but cancer never had me. (I stole this line from Mari Ruddy. I just LOVE it.)
Again, Thank you.
So, there’s my first SGK Ambassador speaking engagement, under my belt. On Monday the 29th, Mom and I will be on KSHB at 11am for Myth Mondays. The myth that we will be discussing is, “All breast cancer is the same.” I can’t think of two better candidates for this discussion.
Have a great week everyone!